Whether through circumstances or desire your child is most likely immersed in more than one language daily, but did you know of the benefits of bilingualism? Learning more than one language has many practical advantages as we are living more and more in a multilingual world.
It is commonly believed that children who learn to speak two languages may confuse the two; swapping words from both languages even within the same phrase. However, the advantages of bilingualism go deeper than just being able to communicate in more than one tongue.
1. A smarter child
According to research carried out by National University of Singapore (NUS) between March and December in 2011, children who learn more than two languages are more able to recall locations or find hidden toys, than those who just learn one language. Bilingual children know more words and different meanings are sometimes attached to the same object across two languages. This means a bilingual child may develop more flexible thinking. As Albert Costa, a researcher at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain explains, “You may talk to your father in one language and to your mother in another language…it requires keeping track of changes around you in the same way that we monitor our surroundings when driving.”
2. Enhance family ties
Language is a powerful influence in moulding a child’s sense of identity. Being able to communicate between generations (such as with grandparents) helps to increase a sense of belonging with the family. In the case of parents who each speak a different first language, a child who is bilingual can communicate freely with both. At the same time, both parents are passing on to the child their history and heritage.
3. Cross-cultural access
One main benefit of being bilingual is having access to different cultures. With various languages come idioms, folklore, literature and music, both traditional and contemporary. This can create a deeper understanding of different traditions and ways of thinking and behaving. The pleasures of speaking, reading, writing are increased manifold.
4. Security in identity
Language is one of the few things that can act as a powerful link between people everywhere. Everyone can be proud of their own mother tongue, even if they don’t speak it.
5. Third languages easier to learn
Bilinguals tend to find it easier to learn a third language because their brains are already well-equipped to handle differences between two languages.
6. Future employment advantages
It’s never too early to think ahead! There are growing economic advantages of being bilingual. A person with two languages will have an edge in the job market, as languages are used in sectors such as tourism, public relations, banking and accountancy, marketing, law and teaching. Being bilingual does not guarantee a great resume, but it will give children another useful skill.
Article by Eeleen Lee